Located in the heart of the Midwest, St Louis, Missouri, is a vibrant city known for its iconic Gateway Arch and rich history. As a visitor, you might be wondering how you can explore this exciting city without breaking the bank. In this article, we’ll share tips and tricks for saving money while experiencing the best of St Louis.
Budget-friendly Activities in St Louis
St Louis is home to an impressive variety of free attractions that cater to diverse interests, making it easy for budget-conscious travelers to enjoy the city’s offerings. Here are some notable free attractions you won’t want to miss:
- The St Louis Zoo: Ranked among the best zoos in the country, the St Louis Zoo offers free admission and houses over 17,000 animals, including favorites like elephants, penguins, and big cats.
- Missouri History Museum: Explore the rich history of St Louis and the state of Missouri through interactive exhibits, artifacts, and photographs at this free museum.
- St Louis Science Center: Perfect for visitors of all ages, the St Louis Science Center features hands-on exhibits and demonstrations that cover various scientific disciplines, from astronomy to engineering.
- Forest Park: Covering over 1,300 acres, Forest Park is one of the largest urban parks in the United States. Enjoy picturesque walking trails, picnic areas, and scenic vistas for free.
- St Louis Art Museum: Housing an extensive collection of art spanning different time periods and cultures, the St Louis Art Museum offers free admission to its permanent collection.
- The World Chess Hall of Fame: Learn about the history of chess and admire its unique art and culture at this free museum, which also hosts special events and tournaments throughout the year.
- Laumeier Sculpture Park: Wander through this 105-acre park and discover contemporary sculptures scattered throughout the landscape. This open-air museum is a great place to spend a leisurely afternoon.
- Anheuser-Busch Brewery Tour: Take a free tour of the iconic Anheuser-Busch Brewery and learn about the brewing process, followed by complimentary beer samples for those aged 21 and over.
- The Old Courthouse: Discover the history of the Old Courthouse, a historic landmark that played a significant role in American history, including the famous Dred Scott case. Free guided tours are available.
- The Gateway Arch: While visiting the Gateway Arch itself requires a ticket, you can still enjoy the surrounding grounds and the newly renovated Gateway Arch National Park for free.
By taking advantage of St Louis’ many free attractions, you can experience the city’s rich culture and history without putting a strain on your wallet.
St Louis offers a wealth of budget-friendly activities that can be enjoyed by visitors of all ages. From outdoor adventures to cultural experiences, you don’t have to spend a lot to have a great time in the city. Here are some affordable fun ideas to consider during your visit:
- Citygarden: This urban sculpture park in downtown St Louis features unique artwork, interactive water features, and beautifully landscaped grounds. Entry to Citygarden is free, making it a perfect spot to enjoy art and nature without spending a dime.
- Cherokee Street: Stroll along Cherokee Street, a vibrant arts and culture district, where you’ll find galleries, antique shops, and eclectic boutiques. Enjoy browsing the unique shops and soaking in the street’s artistic atmosphere without spending a fortune.
- Soulard Farmers Market: Visit the historic Soulard Farmers Market, one of the oldest public markets in the United States, and discover a variety of fresh produce, baked goods, and locally made crafts. The lively atmosphere makes for an enjoyable experience, even if you’re just browsing.
- Outdoor movies: During the summer months, several parks and public spaces in St Louis host free outdoor movie nights. Bring a blanket or lawn chair and enjoy a film under the stars.
- Food truck events: St Louis has a thriving food truck scene, with numerous events held throughout the year. These events offer a chance to sample diverse and affordable cuisine while enjoying live music and entertainment.
- Biking: Rent a bike or bring your own and explore St Louis’ extensive network of bike trails. Popular routes include the Grant’s Trail, Riverfront Trail, and the Great Rivers Greenway system. Biking is an affordable way to see the city while staying active.
- Picnicking: Pack a picnic and head to one of St Louis’ many parks, like Tower Grove Park or Lafayette Square Park, for a relaxing afternoon. Enjoying a meal outdoors is an affordable way to savor the city’s natural beauty.
- Local sports: While attending a professional sports game can be expensive, St Louis offers many affordable alternatives. Check out minor league baseball games, collegiate sports events, or local recreational leagues for an exciting and budget-friendly experience.
- Free concerts: Throughout the year, St Louis hosts a variety of free concerts in public spaces, such as the Missouri History Museum, the Old Post Office Plaza, and the Schlafly Bottleworks. Enjoy live music and entertainment without breaking the bank.
- Game night: Visit a local board game café, like Pieces or The Board Room, where you can play a wide range of games for a small cover charge. Spend an evening playing classic board games or discovering new favorites with friends and family.
By exploring these affordable activities, you can have a memorable and fun-filled visit to St Louis without overspendin
Discounts and Coupons
To make the most of your visit to St Louis while staying on budget, take advantage of discounts and coupons available for various attractions, dining, and accommodations. Here are some tips to help you find deals and save money during your trip:
- Visit St Louis website: The official tourism website for St Louis, Explore St. Louis (www.explorestlouis.com), often features discounts, special offers, and printable coupons for attractions, dining, shopping, and accommodations. Be sure to check it out before your trip.
- CityPASS: St Louis CityPASS offers discounted admission to several popular attractions, including the Missouri Botanical Garden, the St Louis Aquarium, and the St Louis Wheel. Purchasing a CityPASS can save you money if you plan to visit multiple attractions.
- Group discounts: If you’re traveling with a group, inquire about group discounts at attractions, hotels, and restaurants. Many businesses offer reduced rates for large groups, which can save everyone money.
- Travel during the off-season: St Louis tends to be less crowded during the off-season, which generally falls between November and February. During this time, you may find discounted rates on accommodations and attractions.
- Membership discounts: If you’re a member of organizations like AAA, AARP, or the military, be sure to ask about available discounts. Many attractions, hotels, and restaurants offer special rates for members of these groups.
- Online deals: Websites like Groupon and LivingSocial often feature deals on St Louis attractions, restaurants, and accommodations. Check these sites regularly for limited-time offers that can help you save on your trip.
- Social media: Follow your favorite St Louis attractions, restaurants, and hotels on social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. These businesses often share special promotions, discounts, and giveaways exclusively for their followers.
- Loyalty programs: Many hotels, restaurants, and attractions offer loyalty programs or rewards cards that provide discounts or perks for frequent visitors. If you’re planning a return visit to St Louis, it might be worth signing up for these programs to save money in the long run.
- Local publications: Keep an eye out for local newspapers, magazines, and visitor guides during your stay in St Louis. These publications often feature coupons and special offers for various attractions and businesses in the area.
By researching discounts and utilizing coupons, you can make the most of your St Louis vacation without overspending. These savings will help you enjoy all that the city has to offer while staying within your budget.
Enjoying St Louis’ Nightlife on a Budget
St Louis boasts a diverse nightlife scene, and you don’t have to spend a fortune to enjoy it. Here are some tips for experiencing St Louis’ nightlife without breaking the bank:
- Happy hour specials: Many bars and restaurants in St Louis offer happy hour specials, typically between 4-7 pm, with discounted drinks and appetizers. Keep an eye out for these deals to save on your night out.
- Dive bars: St Louis has a thriving dive bar scene, offering unpretentious and affordable options for enjoying drinks and mingling with locals. Check out popular spots like CBGB, The Silver Ballroom, and The Heavy Anchor for a laid-back evening.
- Live music: Several venues in St Louis offer free or low-cost live music, showcasing local and touring bands. Head to places like The Broadway Oyster Bar, The Schlafly Tap Room, or The Beale on Broadway to catch some tunes without spending too much.
- Open mic nights: Open mic nights can be an entertaining and affordable way to enjoy St Louis’ local talent. Look for bars or cafes hosting open mic events, where you might discover your new favorite singer or comedian.
- Trivia nights: Participate in a fun and budget-friendly trivia night at a local bar or brewery. These events often have no cover charge and can even include prizes for the winning teams.
- Breweries: St Louis has a flourishing craft beer scene, with several local breweries offering affordable tastings and tours. Visit popular breweries like Urban Chestnut Brewing Company, 4 Hands Brewing Co., or Schlafly Bottleworks to sample unique brews at reasonable prices.
- BYOB events: Some St Louis events and venues allow you to bring your own beverages, which can save you money on drinks. Research local BYOB options and enjoy a night out without spending a fortune at the bar.
- Themed nights: Many bars and clubs in St Louis host themed nights, which often include drink specials or discounted entry fees. Look for events like karaoke, salsa dancing, or retro nights to enjoy a memorable experience at a reduced cost.
By exploring St Louis’ nightlife options and taking advantage of discounts and special events, you can experience the city’s vibrant evening scene without putting too much strain on your wallet.
Seasonal Events and Festivals
St Louis hosts a variety of seasonal events and festivals throughout the year, many of which are either free or budget-friendly. These events showcase the city’s rich culture, arts, and entertainment, providing visitors with unique and memorable experiences. Here are some notable seasonal events and festivals in St Louis:
- St Louis Mardi Gras: Taking place annually in February or March, St Louis Mardi Gras is one of the largest Mardi Gras celebrations outside of New Orleans. Enjoy parades, live music, and street parties in the historic Soulard neighborhood.
- Art Fair at Queeny Park: Held in both spring and fall, this art fair features works from over 100 artists across various mediums, including paintings, sculptures, and photography. Browse the art, enjoy live music, and participate in hands-on activities.
- The Great Forest Park Balloon Race: This annual event, usually held in September, features a spectacular hot air balloon race in Forest Park. Watch the colorful balloons take to the sky and enjoy a day of family-friendly activities, live music, and food vendors.
- St Louis Earth Day Festival: Celebrate Earth Day in April with this eco-friendly festival, featuring live music, local food, and educational workshops. Learn about sustainable living and environmental conservation while enjoying the festivities.
- St Louis International Film Festival: Held annually in November, this film festival showcases independent and international films at various venues throughout the city. Discover thought-provoking films, attend panel discussions, and meet filmmakers during this event.
- Twangfest: Twangfest, a roots music festival, takes place every June and showcases local, regional, and national artists. Enjoy live performances across multiple venues in St Louis and explore the diverse sounds of Americana, country, and rock music.
- The Festival of Nations: This multicultural festival, held in August in Tower Grove Park, celebrates the diverse cultures and traditions of St Louis’ residents. Experience live music, dance performances, authentic cuisine, and interactive exhibits from around the world.
- The Loop Ice Carnival: Held in January, the Loop Ice Carnival features ice sculptures, live ice carving demonstrations, and winter-themed activities along the Delmar Loop. Bundle up and enjoy this unique celebration of the season.
- St Louis Shakespeare Festival: Taking place in June, this outdoor festival presents free performances of Shakespeare plays in Forest Park. Bring a blanket or lawn chair and enjoy the Bard’s works under the stars.
- St Louis Brewers Heritage Festival: This annual event, usually held in June, brings together local breweries to showcase St Louis’ thriving craft beer scene. Sample a wide range of brews while enjoying live music, food vendors, and more.
By planning your visit around St Louis’ seasonal events and festivals, you can experience the city’s vibrant culture and arts scene without spending a fortune on entertainment.
St Louis for Nature Lovers
St Louis offers plenty of opportunities for nature enthusiasts to explore the great outdoors. From beautiful parks and gardens to hiking trails and wildlife, there is no shortage of budget-friendly activities for nature lovers. Here are some popular outdoor destinations in and around St Louis:
- Forest Park: Spanning over 1,300 acres, Forest Park is a must-visit destination for nature lovers. Enjoy walking, jogging, or cycling along the park’s trails, rent a paddleboat on the Grand Basin, or simply relax in one of the many picturesque picnic areas.
- Missouri Botanical Garden: While there is a modest admission fee, the Missouri Botanical Garden offers 79 acres of stunning gardens, including the renowned Japanese Garden and Climatron conservatory. It’s a perfect place to spend a leisurely day enjoying nature.
- Castlewood State Park: Located about 30 minutes from downtown St Louis, Castlewood State Park features scenic hiking trails along the Meramec River, with beautiful bluffs and wooded areas. The park is also a popular spot for mountain biking and birdwatching.
- Shaw Nature Reserve: Covering 2,400 acres, Shaw Nature Reserve offers a variety of ecosystems, including prairies, wetlands, and forests. Enjoy hiking trails, educational programs, and seasonal events at this beautiful natural area just outside of St Louis.
- Lone Elk Park: This unique wildlife management area, located about 30 minutes from St Louis, is home to bison, elk, deer, and other wildlife. Drive through the park or explore the hiking trails for a chance to see these magnificent animals up close.
- Creve Coeur Park: Located in the St Louis suburbs, Creve Coeur Park offers a variety of outdoor activities, including hiking, biking, fishing, and birdwatching. Rent a kayak or canoe and paddle on the 320-acre Creve Coeur Lake for a peaceful day on the water.
- The Katy Trail: This 240-mile recreational trail, built on a former railroad corridor, offers excellent opportunities for walking, cycling, or horseback riding. Enjoy picturesque views of the Missouri River, limestone bluffs, and lush countryside as you traverse the trail.
- Powder Valley Conservation Nature Center: Discover three miles of peaceful hiking trails and educational exhibits at this nature center, located just a short drive from downtown St Louis. Learn about local flora and fauna while enjoying the serene surroundings.
- Cahokia Mounds State Historic Site: Just across the Mississippi River from St Louis, you’ll find Cahokia Mounds, an ancient Native American city and UNESCO World Heritage Site. Explore the interpretive center and hike the trails to learn about the history and culture of the site.
By visiting these natural attractions and engaging in outdoor activities, nature lovers can experience the beauty of St Louis and its surroundings without spending a fortune.
Finding Affordable Accommodation
St Louis offers several hostel options that provide affordable accommodation for travelers. Hostels typically have shared rooms and amenities, allowing you to save money while meeting fellow travelers.
Renting a room or an entire home through Airbnb is another way to find cost-effective lodging in St Louis. This option provides more privacy and the opportunity to cook your meals, reducing your dining expenses.
There are also numerous budget hotels throughout the city that offer comfortable rooms at reasonable prices. Look for deals and discounts online to secure the best rate.
Eating on a Budget
Save money on food by shopping at local markets like Soulard Farmers Market. Buying fresh produce and preparing meals in your accommodation can significantly reduce your food expenses.
St Louis has plenty of budget-friendly restaurants serving delicious meals. Explore the city’s diverse food scene, from barbecue joints to international eateries, and enjoy affordable, tasty dishes.
Food trucks have become increasingly popular in St Louis, offering diverse cuisine options at reasonable prices. Check out local events and festivals where food trucks are likely to gather, or use social media to find your favorite truck’s location.
Saving on Transportation
St Louis offers various public transportation options that can save you money, such as buses and the MetroLink light rail system. Invest in a Metro pass to save on individual fares and enjoy unlimited rides during your stay.
Many areas of St Louis are bike-friendly, making cycling an economical and healthy way to explore the city. Rent a bike from a local shop or use the city’s bike-sharing program to reduce your transportation expenses.
Consider using ridesharing apps like Uber or Lyft to carpool with other travelers, reducing the cost of transportation while also making new connections.
Consider volunteering your time during your visit to St Louis. Many organizations offer free or discounted experiences in exchange for your help, allowing you to make a positive impact while saving money.
Additional Tips for Saving Money in St Louis
- Travel during the off-peak season to find better deals on accommodation and activities.
- Carry a reusable water bottle to avoid buying bottled water.
- Use free Wi-Fi at cafes and public spaces to save on data costs.
Meet Me in St Louis!
St Louis, Missouri, offers a wealth of activities and experiences for budget-conscious travelers. From free attractions and affordable accommodation options to budget-friendly dining and transportation tips, this guide will help you make the most of your visit without breaking the bank.
What is the best time to visit St Louis on a budget?
- The best time to visit St Louis on a budget is during the off-peak season, typically from late fall to early spring, when accommodation and attraction prices are lower.
Are there any free walking tours in St Louis?
- Yes, there are several free walking tours available in St Louis, showcasing the city’s history, architecture, and culture.
What are some budget-friendly day trips from St Louis?
- Budget-friendly day trips from St Louis include visiting the Daniel Boone Home, exploring the wine country in Hermann or Augusta, or hiking in Pere Marquette State Park.
Can I use public transportation to get to the Gateway Arch?
- Yes, you can take the MetroLink light rail to the Arch-Laclede’s Landing station, which is just a short walk from the Gateway Arch.
Is it safe to bike in St Louis?
- Many areas of St Louis are bike-friendly, with dedicated bike lanes and trails available for cyclists. However, it’s essential to follow safety guidelines, such as wearing a helmet and using lights at night